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JULY 2020

Joint US-Singapore Drills in the South China Sea as Regional Tensions Flare

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Joint US-Singapore Drills in the South China Sea as Regional Tensions Flare

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As tensions are once again flaring between the US and China, with multiple disputes including each country’s relations with Taiwan and protests in Hong Kong, along with the numerous unresolved regional disputes of which the competing territorial claims over the South China Sea remains prominent, the US and Singapore have just concluded a set of joint drills in the South China Sea.

On 24-25 May he Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) and the Republic of Singapore Navy Formidable-class multi-role stealth frigate RSS Steadfast (FFS 70) conducted a bilateral exercise in the South China Sea.

According to the military portal Defence Talk, the exercises were an opportunity for Gabrielle Giffords and Steadfast to enhance interoperability between the two navies, with emphasis on the importance of communications and coordination while sailing together. The drills included a publication exercise, flashing light exercise, maneuvering exercise, large and small caliber gun shoots, and a photo exercise. All events were planned with an emphasis on COVID-19 social distancing measures, resulting in a successful multi-event exercise, with no in-person planning.

The last time the two countries exercised at sea was during Exercise Pacific Griffin, U.S.-Singapore’s most complex naval exercise to date, which occurred near Guam in October 2019. During the Pacific Griffin exercise, held from September 24 to October 10 in waters off Guam, the navies of the US and Singapore staged their first ever cooperative anti-surface drill, fired a naval strike missile, and engaged in anti-submarine and anti-air warfare manoeuvres.

The U.S. and Republic of Singapore navies work together on a number of initiatives at sea such as ASEAN-US Maritime Exercise (AUMX), Exercise Pacific Griffin, Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT), and Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), as well as combined operations such as multi-national counter-piracy.

Attached to Destroyer Squadron 7, Gabrielle Giffords is on a rotational deployment to the US 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific. The US 7th Fleet conducts forward-deployed naval operations in support of U.S. national interests in the Indo-Pacific area of operations. As the U.S. Navy’s largest numbered fleet, 7th Fleet interacts with 35 other maritime nations to build partnerships that foster maritime security, promote stability, and prevent conflict.

Both the US and China are staging frequent maritime military exercises throughout the region, often involving other countries but also frequently involving direct confrontations, such as shadowing each other’s vessels and aircraft while they are on patrol or conducting manoeuvres.

On 12 May 12, Kyodo News reported that the PLA’s Southern Theatre Command is allegedly planning a simulated invasion of the Dongsha islands with Hainan island as its practice field. The mock invasion will reportedly take place in August and include a large number of marines, landing ships, hovercraft, and helicopters.

In response to the report, the Global Times cited experts as saying that the Dongsha Islands are in a ‘strategically important location’ and that the PLA has the capability of turning “any exercise into action if Taiwan secessionists insist on secession”.

The earlier reports have since been confirmed, and that one or even both of China’s aircraft carriers may take part in the military exercises. Yesterday Taiwan News stated that China is reportedly planning on deploying two aircraft carriers in waters near Taiwan as part of its war games in August to rehearse for a future assault on the Taiwan-controlled Dongsha Islands.

On Monday of this week News.com.au reported that for the first time, both of Chinas aircraft carriers, the Liaoning and Shandong, are being deployed together in Bohai Bay in the Yellow Sea to conduct combat readiness drills. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) carriers are engaged in the second week of an 11-week simulated military confrontation that will later extend into the South China Sea.

The South China Morning Post subsequently cited a military source as saying that “An aircraft carrier strike group will pass through the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands) on its way to the exercise site to the southeast of Taiwan in the Philippine Sea.”

Since the PLA announced it would hold the military exercise, the American military has stepped up warship and fighter patrols in the South China Sea. On Tuesday (26 May) the U.S. Airforce dispatched two B-1B bombers and a refueling aircraft to fly toward the South China Sea after passing over the Bashi Channel to the south of Taiwan and near Hong Kong. The two bombers and the KC-135R tanker aircraft left Andersen Air Force Base in Guam on their way to the South China Sea, according to Aircraft Spots.

There is speculation in the region that the aircraft having flown near Hong Kong might also be a signal to China over the proposed national security law which sparked a resumption of protests within Hong Kong itself.

Developments in Hong Kong are probably not a major factor of themselves however, as the US regularly conducts naval and maritime drills and manoeuvres throughout the region. On 14 May the U.S. Navy posted pictures of one of its warships sailing through the sensitive Taiwan Strait for the sixth time this year. The passage had taken place the previous day, when the guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85) steamed through the 180-kilometre-wide strait separating Taiwan and China as “part of ongoing operations in the Indo-Pacific,” according to the post on the U.S Pacific Fleet Facebook page. It was the sixth such transit of the strait by an American warship so far this year. U.S. naval vessels passed through the area a total of nine times last year, according to CNA.

While the announcement of the operation followed reports on 12 May of a Chinese military exercise scheduled for August in the South China Sea to simulate an invasion of the Taiwan-controlled Dongsha Islands (Pratas Islands), it must have been planned and put into effect much earlier. Also, on 13 May a US littoral combat ship was operating in the southern reaches of the South China Sea. The Pacific Fleet said it was the second time in a week this type of vessel had patrolled those waters in support of “freedom of navigation and overflight.”

The US Congress added another element to the disputes and reciprocal recriminations with China today (27 May) when it voted to toughen the U.S. response to what it referred to as a brutal Chinese crackdown on ethnic minorities. The House passed a bipartisan bill that would impose sanctions on Chinese officials involved in the mass surveillance and detention of Uighurs and other ethnic groups in the western Xianjiang region. The measure already passed the Senate and needs a signature from President Donald Trump, who said this week he’ll “very strongly” consider it. The bill passed by a 413-1 vote.

At a press conference last Sunday China’s foreign minister Wang Yi told reporters: “It has come to our attention that some political forces in the US are taking China-US relations hostage and pushing our two countries to the brink of a new Cold War.” The resolution by the Congress will no doubt add more weight to this impression.

The United States held at least 85 joint military exercises with its allies in the Indo-Pacific region in 2019 according to the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative, affiliated to Peking University, which completed a report on the topic late last year. While the drills – carried out between January and November – have varied in size, their aim has been consistent: to extend America’s presence in the region and strengthen the defence capabilities of its allies.

“Through these exercises, the US is enhancing its interoperability with other nations and making a stronger military presence to contain the rise of China as a maritime power,” it said, adding that America was “likely to stage more drills on core combat capability … to handle the perceived regional security threat”.

Of the joint and multinational exercises staged in the period, the Philippines was involved in at least 16, Thailand nine and Singapore six, the report said.

Although neither Singapore nor Thailand are involved in territorial disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea – the Philippines,  Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan are – military cooperation between the two Southeast Asian nations and the US is deepening. The US has also invited other allies, including Japan, India and Australia, to take part in exercises in the South China Sea, in an effort to “drag more nations into the [issue]”, the report said. (LINK)

In a development that goes against the deluge of belligerent actions and accusations, according to the Philippines news agency the Inquirer President Duterte and Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc spoke over the phone on Tuesday evening where they “reiterated their commitment to the peaceful settlement of disputes” in the South China Sea. The Philippines has been actively pushing for the conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

The Philippines and Vietnam elevated their bilateral ties to a Strategic Partnership in 2015. The two sides committed to enhance cooperation in a wide of areas — political, economic, socio-cultural, and defence and security cooperation, including in the area of maritime security.

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  • Raptar Driver

    All this posing is sickening and a huge waste of resource.

    • occupybacon

      For who?

    • Traiano Welcome

      That’s great, the sooner the Empire is bankrupt, the better.

      • Zionism = EVIL
        • Traiano Welcome

          Hmmm … If it wasn’t Minnesota, I’d say it looks remarkably like Hong Kong ;-) You think some US states should be granted autonomy?

          • Zionism = EVIL
          • Traiano Welcome

            They should be careful though, this is the point when intelligence services and ‘third force provocateurs’ step in to corrupt the situation …

          • Zionism = EVIL

            Protesters destroyed property “because the system is broken,” said a young white man who identified himself only by his nickname, Cash, and who said he had been in the streets during the violence.

            He dismissed the idea the destruction would hurt residents of the largely black neighbourhood.

            “The Jews and corporations are making money off of us,” he said angrily of the owners of the destroyed stores. He laughed when asked if he had joined in the looting or violence — “I didn’t break anything, but I can see the real anger.”

          • Black Waters

            Exactly, right now the CIA and the NSA are planning their move. They will try to use any pretext they can to portray them as “terrorists” or whatever crap the make up.

            The key is to gather numbers, and DO NOT COMPLY.

          • Traiano Welcome

            My prediction is there will be a false flag provocation to incite Black vs. White violence, thereby dividing the currently unified protests. Someone will stage an apparently racially motivated attack in an attempt to stain the moral purity of the movement …

          • Ashok Varma

            FBI has a history of staged events dating back to the Black Panters and Malcolm-X.

          • Raptar Driver

            This is good news.

          • Ashok Varma

            US is a racist society and Trump is fanning more hatred.

      • Ashok Varma

        It already is.

    • Zionism = EVIL

      Meanwhile in the real world, AmeriKKKa is burning as race riots spread to the west coast. The stupid cunts have their shithole country burning and the morons want to fight China ROFLMAO!

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0744077cbd43018d6d635aa25a13cc7a981b5126338361b8bc937ccccd557c74.jpg

      • Traiano Welcome

        Now THIS is DEMOCRACY!
        One could imagine that America was built on the backs of black slaves so that one day it could be burned down by them … The Universal Feedback Loop …

      • Raptar Driver

        They should be rioting and the white people should be joining them.

    • Ashok Varma

      Why do you think the US is burning?

  • Dick Von Dast’Ard

    Sooner that new H-20 bomber starts patrolling off of San Diego (or at least Honolulu) the better.

    • occupybacon

      I wouldn’t hold my breathe for that

      • Ivan Freely

        Never say never.

    • Ivan Freely

      We’re going to see their third carrier take shape soon.

  • Chinese Dog

    Chinese fuckers dont have enough ships and the ships they have can be sunk anytime :D

    • Dick Von Dast’Ard

      Bigger fleet than the USN don’t they?

      • Chinese Dog

        Maybe yes but whats the use of having 100 junk ships when a strong US ship could easily sink all of them?

        • Dick Von Dast’Ard

          Chinese have a very potent mix of aviation, warships and munitions.
          Pentagon reports U.S. would lose conflict in all scenarios.

        • Traiano Welcome

          How about a 100 submarines, and 100 DF-21 ?

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DF-21

        • Black Waters

          That’s the SAME mentality as NAZI germany… -SPOILER ALERT- Germany is no more.

      • Zionism = EVIL

        AmeriKKKa on fire, police cunts escape to rooftop of Safeway after the main Minneapolis police station torched, now the riots have spread to California.

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/fe7664cab676f7cef317d6665bba9017afdf4e87c36a0729958c342ce56c3ca4.jpg

    • Traiano Welcome

      The Chinese do not need ships.
      The Chinese have ship-killers.
      They can sink a Carrier Group
      from the mainland, without
      even one ship in their navy.
      Also, you should consider
      they have submarines …
      Navies are obsolete.

    • Ivan Freely

      Clearly you don’t follow the modernization efforts of the Chinese military. I strongly suggest you read up on it before making any more ridiculous claims.

      • Zionism = EVIL

        He is a troll who posted as PP and claimed that he was an Indian, before the other Indians caught him out and was banned. This is one of his latest trolling account. Complete moron.

    • Zionism = EVIL

      Stupid arsehole you are one lonely loser. Back again. Will be banned again ROFLMAO!

  • Traiano Welcome

    This is the worst thing Singapore could get involved in right now.

    Is this even true? Singapore has been careful not to get involved in the fight between the USA and China. Singapore is intricately connected to China, so it has to tread carefully …

    • Ivan Freely

      IMO, it’s a rich man’s war. There are billionaires likely from HK that fled to Singapore after the handover, and they’re using their money and influence to make this happen.

      • Traiano Welcome

        That’s very difficult to understand. My impression is that the SAF and the Singaporean State keep a tight control of their governmental processes … It’s hard to imagine they would allow the state to be put at risk by “money”.
        Note: Any other country, I’d believe it, but Singapore treads a thin line and allowing moneyed interests to pervert it’s governance is a matter of life and death …

        • Ivan Freely

          We live in strange times. IMO, never say never.

  • Zionism = EVIL

    IRAN NAMES LATEST WARSHIP AFTER GENERAL SOLEIMANI

    The commander of the Iranian Navy, Major-General Ali-Reza Tungsiri,
    said that Tehran is working on designing a military ship named “Qassem
    Soleimani” and another one called “Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis”, which will
    include a platform for the landing and taking-off of helicopters.

    Tungsiri said during a ceremony to hand over new marine boats to the
    Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) navy, Thursday, that a large
    group of speedboats, including 112 attack boats, including the Zulfiqar,
    Haidar and Ma’ad, have been received, indicating that “they will
    increase the offensive force of the naval forces in the Revolutionary
    Guards in the Gulf waters.” .

    Tungsiri announced that they “will be with the Americans wherever
    they are,” stressing that the Americans will feel the presence of the
    Iranian Guard more in the future.

    He said: “We take American threats seriously, do not fear death, are
    ready to sacrifice, and we will slap the enemy in any confrontation.”

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6a8e86d0e8e644eed8c6df242ec4400bab151045807ecd6296857bf1123ac9ac.jpg